Jon Meacham, author of this year's All School Read, the #1 New York Times bestseller, The Soul of America: The Battle for Our Better Angels, addressed students and faculty in Ward Hall during St. Sebastian's annual Summer Reading Assembly this morning, September 11, 2019.
A highly sought-after commentator, the Presidential historian and Pulitzer Prize-winning author is also a contributor to Time and the New York Times Book Review and is a regular guest on CNN and MSNBC.
From his vast breadth and depth of knowledge of the topics of politics, religion and current affairs, Meacham spoke about how the past informs the present and how hope triumphs over fear. Acknowledging his appreciation for St. Sebastian’s traditions of faith and reason, he noted, “We have been given the gift of reason for a reason and I urge you to think historically as much as possible.” He continued, “History is not a GPS, it’s not an intellectual Uber. You can’t call it and go somewhere. But it is an orienting force. It gives you a sense of what has been possible in the past and therefore what might be possible today.” Referencing pivotal moments in our country’s history, he asked the boys, “What do you want the future to say about us?” A theme of empathy, opening doors and not closing them, was woven into his inspirational speech as a means of moving forward.
The book and Meacham’s presentation promised to leave a lasting impression on the St. Sebastian’s community. A few students had the opportunity to ask thoughtful questions, including the impact of social media and how we bridge the divide and come together as a nation. After the talk, Braeden McCabe ’21 stopped to thank Meacham for the book, which he read along with his father, and made sure to let the author know how much he loved it.
In conjunction with Meacham’s visit, a crew from Kunhardt Films was present on campus for the production of a documentary on Meacham. Kunhardt Films specializes in documentary films about the people and ideas that shape American history and has received numerous accolades for its work, including six Emmy Awards. Stay tuned for more details on the air date.